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City council members hope proposal will reduce catalytic converter thefts in Denver

Thefts increased by nearly 900% from 2020 to 2021, according to Denver police.

DENVER — The theft of a small but pricey car part is soaring in Denver. Police say catalytic converter thefts increased by nearly 900% from 2020 to 2021.

The Denver Police Department thinks a new state law won't be enough to stop it. During a safety committee meeting on Wednesday, DPD's director of Strategic Initiatives, Matt Lunn, asked the Denver City Council to pass an ordinance they think will help reduce the number of stolen catalytic converters. 

DPD's idea would require auto parts dealers to report to police within one business day every time they purchased a used catalytic converter. According to Lunn, this would go beyond a new state law that requires dealers to make records available to police only upon request.

"We don't think that this is going to be effective, or as effective as we would like to see in deterring the sort of activities selling these stolen goods through parts dealers here in Denver, and so we're asking for you all to move forward on this action item," Lunn said.

If the full council approves the ordinance, it would require salvage dealers to report when they purchase a used catalytic converter from someone, just like pawn dealers.

Lunn hopes this would allow them to track thieves. For example, it would be a red flag if the same person came to an auto parts dealer eight times to sell a catalytic converter.

Lunn said they want businesses to report these transactions to police because the department is seeing a lot of organized criminal activity during these thefts.

"We do have instances where individuals are stealing them and trying to make a quick buck," he said. "We also see instances where it's an organized criminal enterprise stealing these parts and selling them to secondhand dealers to be melted down."

Less than 30 seconds is all it takes to steal a catalytic converter from a car. According to police, 2,679 were stolen in 2021.

Lunn said these thefts happen in every neighborhood in the city. Some of the biggest hot spots are the airport, RTD Park-n-Rides, and apartment parking lots, according to Lunn.

"They've been stolen from our family's restaurant in broad daylight," one council member said. 

"I will just comment that this has happened to my wife at an RTD Park-n-Ride," another said. "It is disruptive, is expensive."

The safety committee voted yes on the proposal Wednesday, moving it along in the process. 

RELATED: Aurora City Councilman proposes mandatory jail sentences for car thieves

RELATED: CSP offers free catalytic converter etching for Coloradans

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